Educational Research Analysts   May 2003 Newsletter  

No home run, but a definite hit
A Much Better High School U.S. History Textbook
Texas just adopted new high school U.S. History books. Four major publish­ers offered texts. Three had more or less the same old pro-big govern­ment, anti-free market, political correctness prob­lems. But one, The American Republic Since 1877 (Glencoe ©2003), broke ranks to become a benchmark. Its overall scholarship is superior to other high school U.S. History books seen in Texas in the last 40 years, in that it features:

inclusion of
pro-free enterprise perspectives

It moves beyond 1930s quasi-Marxist "Robber Baron" interpretations on industrialization and big business.

accurate treatment of
strict and loose construction

It rightly defines strict and loose construction of the Constitution, and properly discriminates between them.

clear grasp of
concepts of divided sovereignty

It always distinguishes states' rights from state sovereignty, and Constitutional supremacy from federal supremacy.

some due diligence on
original intent

It occasionally notes Jeffersonian-Jacksonian views of original intent on major Constitutional issues.

divergent views on
the Depression and New Deal

It generally avoids partisanship on controversial topics in economic history from 1929 to 1939.

This text also affirms the conserv­ative nature of the American Revolu­tion by closely relating it to its British con­stitu­tion­al historical context. On re­source econ­omics it correctly dis­tin­guish­es "scarcity" from "shortages," noting that the latter result from gov­ernment price ceilings. It equally presents pros and cons on whether global warm­ing exists, and on economic policy measures to deal with it. It avoids most excesses of political correctness.

A chief flaw in the book is that student activi­ties in its Teacher's Edition, and end-of-chapter exer­cises, do not reinforce the excep­tion­al portions of the text narrative. It ignores many Consti­tu­tional issues of Radical Recon­struction that would have engendered strife even without a race factor. Its pro-women's lib slant on the 1960s-70s echoes adversarial views of gender relations with inadequate counterpoint. Our critique documents these defects.

Yet this Glencoe book reviews the pre-1877 period in greater depth than the other high school U.S. History texts. This is vital because high schoolers can absorb more than 8th graders; because recent immigrants may have missed the first half of U.S. History in 8th grade; and because many colleges do not require students to take U.S. History. If not in high school, some Americans will never learn pre-1877 U.S. History. That would be tragic.

8th grade companion volume

The same four publishers submit­ted 8th grade as well as high school U.S. History books in Texas. We found 249 remaining uncorrected factual errors in the four high school books. But we had time to identify only the 59 factual errors in Glencoe's 8th grade U.S. History book – The American Republic to 1877 – for correction in the final Texas edition. The other three publishers' 8th grade books doubtless still have uncorrected factual errors.

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Liberals cry 'censorship!'

when POLITICAL CORRECTNESS loses its monopoly in textbooks.
They deplore including

Sand Creek Massacre
Colorado, 1864

After a bout of frontier warfare, Cheyenne chief Black Kettle sought peace. The U.S. Army promised him protection and told him to camp with his Indians at Sand Creek, pending negotiations. As Black Kettle waved an American flag and a white flag, about 700 soldiers attacked this camp, killing several hundred Indian men, women, and children.

  Frontiersmen, however, said of this incident:

Vietnam War

Gentle, avuncular Ho Chi Minh ("he who enlightens") originally "admired" the U.S. and was "disappointed" it did not support his "nationalist" movement for Vietnamese "independence."

South Vietnam's pro-U.S. president Ngo Dinh Diem was "oppressive" and "corrupt." With U.S. support, he cancelled a 1956 Vietnam-wide election because he feared a loss to the more popular Ho.

In 1968 American soldiers massacred 200+ noncombatants at My Lai, South Vietnam.

  But North Vietnamese communism under Ho Chi Minh was Stalinist and Maoist in practice.

Radical Reconstruction

Southern white racism caused all the ills of Radical Reconstruction. Carpetbag state government corruption was just part of Gilded Age political culture.

  In fact, Radical Reconstruction involved many Constitutional conflicts unrelated to race.

Fetterman Massacre
Wyoming, 1866

Indians ambushed about 85 soldiers under Captain William Fetterman and killed them all — "a stunning defeat" for the U.S. Army.

Fetterman's company fought valiantly. Poorly armed and low on ammunition, they killed about 65 Sioux (based on battlefield evidence afterward) before succumbing to overwhelming odds.


Textbook Tricks

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Bad scholarship on American constitutionalism taints three out of four high school U.S. History books submitted by major publishers for 2003 local Texas adoption. These representative examples all favor expanding federal power:

constitutional supremacy
equated with federal supremacy

"National Supremacy
… When a national and state law are in conflict, the national law overrides the state law. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land."
American Nation in the Modern Era (Holt, 2003), p. 55
This passage fails to explain that federal law trumps state law only if the federal law is constitutional; also, instead of "National Supremacy," the heading should read, "Supremacy of the Constitution."

wrong definitions of
strict and loose construction

"In a sweeping statement now known as the elastic clause because it has been stretched to fit so many situations, the Constitution declared that … Congress has the authority to pass any laws reasonably necessary to carry out its duties."
America: Pathways to the Present (Prentice, 2003), p. 60
This passage claims the elastic clause gives the federal govern­ment almost unlimited power. In fact, strict construc­tionists believe the elastic clause gives the federal govern­ment the implied powers that are absolutely necessary to carry out its enumer­ated powers. Loose constructionists say it means the federal government can do whatever is convenient, and not expressly prohibited, in carrying out those powers.

confusing states' rights under the Constitution
with state sovereignty over the Constitution

Q: "What difficulties arose from assertions of states' rights against the United States between 1789 and 1877?"

A: "Questions about the right of nullification … were resolved by the Civil War."

The Americans: Reconstruction to the 21st Century (McDougal, 2003), p. 195

The Civil War destroyed state sovereignty over the Constitution. The pretense that it also destroyed states' rights (i.e., divided sovereignty) under the Constitution is a pro-big government myth.

Of the four high school U.S. History books submitted,
only Glencoe's The American Republic Since 1877
(in its final Texas edition) avoids the above problems.

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2003 high school US History textbook ratings

Texas has approved these 5th grade Social Studies books for 2003 local adoption, which we rank as follows:


Harcourt Horizons: U.S. History   • Harcourt ©2003  
  • Clearly superior coverage of the causes of the American Revolution
  • Excels in discussing American constitutional history and issues
  • Conforms to state law on free enterprise as well as Macmillan and better than Scott
  • Most positive treatment of multicultural topics


The United States   • Scott ©2003


Our Nation   • Macmillan ©2003

Our reviewer served on the Texas State Board of Education-appointed Social Studies Review Committee during the 1996 Social Studies curriculum writing process. His brief comparison charts show how these books' subject matter content differs on key topics. We can e-mail you those analyses, contrasting these texts' treatment of the American Revo­lu­tion, consti­tutional history, principles and benefits of free enterprise, multiculturalism, religion, and character trait develop­ment. This info supplements Texas' State Textbook Review Panel, which checked conformity to the state standards; and balances publishers' sales pitches, which stress teaching aids.

No public school publisher funded our reviews in any way. We have no financial stake in any textbook company. Unlike publisher sales reps, we have no monetary interest in any textbook adoption outcome. Our support comes from concerned individuals and a few small foundations, which to our knowledge have no ties to the public school textbook industry. We are the Texas group noted by the Wall Street Journal and ABC's Good Morning America for finding hundreds of high school U.S. History textbook factual errors in 1991-92; and by ABC's 20/20 in 1999 for finding hundreds of high school World History textbook factual errors.